Why who didn’t sign the “white paper” matters

UPDATE: A clarification letter that addresses this issue has been released.  It takes a very humble and apologetic tone.  I’m impressed.


Last week the big story in Presbyterian circles was “the white paper” and the letter that accompanied it.  These were documents written and/or endorsed by a group of Presbyterian pastors that describe their assessment of the current state of the denomination and several options for moving forward.  I feel no need to comment on the content that they presented, but I do think it is important to address one thing that has been the topic of much discussion.

From what I understand all of the people who signed the letters are male pastors from larger churches.  Personally, I don’t think that the demographics of who signed the letter invalidates or lessens whatever truth may be in the letter.  I believe we should judge the content of what they say on what they say, not who says it.

That being said, I do think it is important who signed the letter because of what it says about the values and leadership of this new movement.  As the course of action became clear these 45 men could have decided that it would be better to take a little more time to find women, elders and people from smaller churches to join them by name in constructing and endorsing this initial public statement.  Since they chose not to do this I am led to believe one of the following:
  • Either they were carelessly ignorant and it didn’t occur to them to seek broader representation in their initial private planning and public statement.
  • Or they intentionally felt it was OK to have the leadership of this movement, including the 7 members of the steering community, very unrepresentative of the PC(USA).
I have no doubt that there are many women, elders and people from smaller churches who agree with most everything in the letter, but if I were them I would question what voice I would have in this new movement.

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